#GradSelfies: Pictures Tell the Stories of Your Graduates to the Community

Vol. 12 No. 9

development eletter Vol12 No9 selfie

End-of-year graduations are the perfect time for self-portraits (“selfies”) and other photo opportunities with classmates and faculty members. Besides, your school’s photographer can’t be everywhere at once, and so student- and family-provided pictures can capture some amazing moments for promotional use.

Why not capitalize on the celebratory picture-snapping and start a “hashtag party” so that others can share in their happiness? Ask families to upload photographs to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest—all their preferred social media sites—from graduation and other senior-specific events using the school-approved hashtag so that everyone can see what they’re up to.

Why a Hashtag Party?

The major benefit of hosting a hashtag party is the organic nature of the content. It’s not your office telling the community—parents, alumni, and donors alike—how fantastic your school is; the students themselves share their great accomplishments with everyone.

Plus, when really spectacular photos appear in your social media feed, your Community Manager can reach out to the students and ask for more details, adding some quotes and stories to your annual fund and other fundraising appeals.

For example, let’s say somebody snaps a great shot of a ring of girls all smiling at the camera, but one looks like she’s been crying. Intrigued, your Community Manager messages the student who posted the photo and discovers that the girl just found out she qualified for a prestigious science scholarship—thanks to the new lab equipment facilitating research-based instruction she had while attending your school.

The improvements to the science curriculum that were foundational to this student's success were made possible by the annual fund, and so you've just found a way to personalize a broad, seemingly anonymous donation.

Points to Consider

Of course, hashtag parties aren’t for the faint of heart. Hashtags.org put together a list of how to manage a “Twitter party.” Consider the following before embarking on this potent form of community engagement.

  • What social media sites will you be using for the campaign? This year, the Hotchkiss School will host candid graduation shots on its Flickr account, but you may not want to limit yourself to just one site. Think about what social platforms your school uses already and the strengths and weaknesses of each as you plan for your graduation campaign.
  • What will the hashtag be for this year’s event? While clever hashtags catch on quickly with participants, you could be your own worst enemy. Hashtags.org points out classic blunders like the CD release announcement “#susanalbumparty” as hashtags you should avoid. One secondary university last year used "#UNH14" as its hashtag—uniting separate Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter campaigns into a unique, easily searchable hashtag party.

    On the other hand, you can do what Crespi Carmelite High School did and repurpose multiple hashtags. One Instagram caption last year read "I love you dad! Thank you for everything #fatherson#graduation#crespi #2013," while a tweet said, "It happened all too fast. Going to miss my class #celtpride" (emphasis added).

  • Is there a particular part of your school’s development efforts you’d like to highlight, like scholarship recipients or the use of new facilities? Consider how you want to use the campaign’s results post-graduation.
  • What sort of promotional work will you do before the event to ensure maximum participation? Will you tell your alumni and donors about the hashtag party beforehand? How will you do so? Sometimes promotion through traditional channels like the school's newsletter or bulletin board flyers will draw visitors to your digital media outlets.
  • What about offering a contest? You offer a small prize or recognition to top-quality contributors to spur interest and participation.
  • Will your school's Community Manager be on hand to eliminate off-topic or destructive comments or pictures? When embarking on a live social media campaign, have someone do damage control in real-time. Otherwise, by the time someone gets to it, you may have a situation that's snowballed out of control.

The end of the school year can bring so many fantastic opportunities for the Development Office to share the advantages an education at your school can give to its students. Collect stories and pictures of your graduates now, so you can share them with your donors later!

Break out of your office’s “silo” to learn how development contributes to your school’s advancement at ISM’s “boot camp” for advancement professionals and attend ISM’s Advancement Academy this summer in sunny San Diego, California! Our specialized Development Track will help you understand and implement a “culture of philanthropy” in your school with its strategic fundraising through the annual fund, capital campaigns, or transformational gifts.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 10 No. 7 A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 12 No. 5 Development Is From Mars, and Admission Is From Venus
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 9 No. 4 For Teachers on Twitter: Hashtags to Follow the Conversation
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 12 No. 9 Twitter Etiquette

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 32 No. 3 Marketing Your Purpose and Outcome Statements
I&P Vol. 33 No. 5 The Fallacy of Thinking Outside the Box
I&P Vol. 36 No. 14 Alumni Relations and the Portrait of the Graduate

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